Friday, July 30, 2010

Buy It Where You Burn It - Don't Move Firewood

The next time you’re planning a camping trip, the states of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon want you to think about protecting your favorite outdoor haunts by not moving firewood. The “Buy it Where You Burn It Campaign” encourages people to obtain their firewood in a place as close as possible to the place where it will be burned.

Firewood is a high-risk vector for wood-boring insects, such as emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle, two species responsible for widespread defoliation of forests in Midwest and Eastern states. Washington, Oregon, and Idaho teamed up to spread the word about the potential dangers of transporting firewood carrying live invasive insects and diseases using grant funding from the 2010 Farm Bill. The campaign launches in full force July 15.

The tri-state $481,000 campaign includes billboards and radio spots, firewood exchange programs, biodegradable flying discs and playing cards with “Don’t Move Firewood” messages, and pre- and post-awareness surveys conducted by Oregon State University to determine the effectiveness of outreach.

The Oregon Invasive Species Council (OISC) led the development of a grant to launch an outreach and education campaign with Washington and Idaho to inform the public about the many insect and fungal invasive species and diseases that can be spread by moving untreated firewood.

People have traditionally moved firewood to favorite camp spots and even new homes without recognizing the threat posed by firewood as a pathway for the movement of invasive species.

What are individual states doing to lessen the threat caused by insects and diseases in firewood? Some states have placed restrictions on out-of-state firewood unless it has been heat treated, while other states discourage people from moving firewood within the state—buy local and burn local. Outreach programs have been launched in most states, and a national website,, provides excellent information on not moving firewood.

Outreach and education actions are important components to reduce the threat of firewood, but legislation is equally important.

Numerous federal entities, including plant boards, departments of agriculture, and others support a comprehensive national firewood policy, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) formed the National Firewood Task Force to develop recommendations for firewood regulations, best management practices, and outreach.

Despite the vast amount of forest land in the United States, our country imports a significant amount of firewood/fuelwood. According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, from 1996–2007, the United States imported $83 million of firewood from 27 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, North America, and South America. On average, 76% of the annual firewood imports originated in Canada. Imported firewood enters the United States through 27 states.

The goal of the Council is to get people thinking about the risks to Oregon when people move firewood.

Join the movement . . . Don't Move Firewood.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spotted Winged Drosophila is Spotty Alright

Years ago, an entomologist in Washington State coined the term POTY for pest of the year. It does seem like some new invasive pest shows up every year in the Pacific Northwest. The POTY of 2009 was spotted wing Drosophila, Drosophila suzukii. This year, Oregon’s fruit growers are learning to live with this new pest.

Spotted wing Drosophila is an Asian species first detected in California in 2008. Last summer it appeared suddenly in the Pacific Northwest and caused some damage to late-season caneberries and peaches. Since then, it has also been detected in Florida and South Carolina.

Regulators like myself were slow to recognize the threat. Most species of Drosophila (vinegar flies, small fruit flies) are not pests. The little guys that fly around your over ripe bananas are a good example. They lay their eggs in rotten fruit that is already past its prime. Who cares? Spotted wing Drosophila is different. Females have “large” ovipositors (egg-laying apparatus barely visible to the naked 50+ year-old eye) that can saw through the skin of ripe fruit before it gets soft.

Last year, we learned that fruit could look great right up until harvest, and then be ruined by spotted wing Drosophila. This year, Oregon State University Extension has been preparing growers and working out management strategies to protect their fruit ( In addition, Peerbolt Consulting and OSU are monitoring over 500 traps to track population trends in the state (

With strawberry harvest behind us, and cherry, raspberry, and blueberry harvest underway, there have not been any reports of crop loses from this new pest so far. Here is a summary of what we’ve learned:

·         There are lots of other species of Drosophila out there, and they all look alike.
·         Commercial growers, including organic growers, have been able manage spotted wing Drosophila populations when necessary.
·         Spotted wing Drosophila is widespread in Oregon, but the distribution is spotty.
·         Here and there, backyard growers have reported more soft fruit than usual, and in some cases, spotted wing Drosophila was the culprit.

We don’t know why some sites have more spotted wing Drosophila than others. I have fruit trees and berry bushes in my yard. Spotted wing Drosophila has not shown up, but three other species of fruit flies are hanging around. I don’t spray my trees, and so far the fruit has been delicious with no Drosophila aftertaste.

It is still too early to know how spotted wing Drosophila will affect late season fruit, but indications are that Oregon’s fruit growers are not going to be put out of business by last year’s POTY. The rest of us are unlikely to notice any changes. The fruit that is reaching the market is high quality and delicious. It is another invasive pest, but it’s manageable, thank goodness.

New pest introductions are a price we pay for having fresh produce from far away places available year around in our supermarkets. I wonder what the POTY of 2010 will be?

Dan Hilburn

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Seedless Butterfly Bush, Evidence of a Sea-Change in the Nursery Industry?

I love butterflies, and there is nothing better for drawing them into a yard than butterfly bush (Buddliea davidii). Unfortunately, butterfly bush is invasive. Solid stands have shown up on gravel bars in the McKenzie River, in clearcuts in SW Oregon, and on roadsides and waste areas elsewhere in the state. Butterfly bush is becoming the new Scotch broom.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) did a risk assessment on butterfly bush a few years back and determined it was an environmental threat. Regulations were enacted to phase it out of the nursery industry. Today it is a B-rated noxious weed (bad, but too widespread to eradicate), and it is illegal to propagate or sell it in the state. It is not illegal to own one, but being a good citizen, I cut mine down and killed the stumps—reluctantly.

But the story isn’t over—in fact, it might be just beginning. Plant breeders are developing seedless varieties of butterfly bush, analogous to seedless grapes and seedless watermelons. ODA is working with Oregon State University (OSU) to develop a system to evaluate these new varieties to make sure they are non-invasive. We’ve drawn the line at requiring at least a 98% reduction in fertile seed production compared to traditional varieties under the same conditions. Two varieties have already been approved, ‘Asian Moon’ and ‘Blue Chip.’ More than a dozen others are in the pipeline. All of the new varieties submitted for evaluation thus far are inter-specific hybrids. Asian Moon, for example, is B. davidii X B. asiatica (Renfro et. al., 2007); it is a sterile triploid (3 sets of chromosomes).

Approved seedless varieties will be sold in Oregon as “Seedless Butterfly Bush.” I haven’t seen them for sale yet, but we’ve had lots of inquiries from nurseries, so I expect they will be available soon.

This week, Gary McAninch, the ODA Nursery Program Supervisor, and I met with the general manager of Ball Ornamentals. Their company has a number of other hybrid varieties in the pipeline. Some of them will probably meet the seedless standard, and some of them probably won’t; that will get sorted out in the weeks and months ahead.

The sea-change that we’re just beginning to see in the nursery industry is that ornamental plant breeders are considering invasiveness and working on breeding it out of not just butterfly bush but several other ornamentals that tend to escape from gardens. That’s good news, and from the pictures I’ve seen of the new hybrid butterfly bushes, there is more good news. The new hybrids are beautiful—less gangly and with larger more vibrant flower clusters, than the old varieties, and still attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. I’ve got a feeling they are going very popular. I know I have a couple of spots in my garden where they would fit nicely—right next to some old invasive butterfly bush stumps.

Dan Hilburn

Renfro, S.E., B.M. Burkett, B.L. Dunn, and J.T. Lindstrom. 2007. ‘Asian Moon’ Buddleja. HortScience 42(6):1486-1487.